Pensioner had to eat dog food to survive

Diss, Norfolk. Waveney Food bank's voulnteer Gary White
Diss, Norfolk. Waveney Food bank's voulnteer Gary White

While it was the most extreme in a series of cases for the Waveney Foodbank, the news of a pensioner surviving on dog food is just one of many sad statistics released this week.

Figures from the foodbank, which covers Diss, Eye, Harleston, Long Stratton, Bungay and its surrounds, continue to show that many people are finding themselves in crisis situations.

There were 1,100 food boxes sent out to either individuals or families in the ten months from April 2013 to February.

Of the people using the foodbank in this time, 285 were in work, but struggling to survive.

The biggest single cause of hardship is loss of benefits due to penalty, errors or delays.

Waveney Foodbank co-ordinator Graham Reardon, who helped set up the charity in 2012, said it was no surprise the demand on the charity, part of the Trussell Trust network, was increasing.

He said: “We are doing as much as we can, but we think there is still more we can do.”

Seventy nine of those 1,100 boxes given out were to those over 65 years old.

One figure that has surprised Mr Reardon, is that there is a bigger demand for the foodbank in Harleston, than in Diss, a town with a bigger population.

Since Christmas, 170 foodboxes have been given to individuals, couples or families, in Harleston, including 50 children.

But Diss has seen slightly fewer, at 165, with 51 children as part of those figures.

“Not long ago, some people in Harleston were saying: ‘Do we even need a foodbank?’,” said Mr Reardon.

In Diss, five per cent of the population is estimated to have been fed, with 550 food boxes delivered since April, based on an 8,000 population.

There was no more information available on the pensioner who was found eating dog food, but Mr Reardon said he suspected there were other care issues in that case, such as access to shops.

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, whose constituency covers much of the Waveney Foodbank area, said: “It is worrying that delays and error in the welfare system are making life more difficult for hard-working local families. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) needs to do much more to address fraud, error and delay, and part of my work on the Commons public accounts committee is to pressurise the DWP to improve performance.

“There is also more that can and should be done to help working families get by, including improving access to childcare and helping people to squeeze as much value as possible out of limited household budgets.

“However, it should be remembered that many working families no longer pay income tax and 1.25 million more people are in work because of decisions taken by this government.

“Alongside this, planned fuel and petrol price increases have been axed and universal benefits for pensioners, including winter fuel payments, have been protected.”

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